Observations from the Dog Park

Maggie and friends at the dog park.

I never know quite what to expect when I venture to the dog park. Dogs are often unpredictable, much like humans are. Overall, I really enjoy the dog park. I love to see all the different dogs and the way they interact with the other dog owners and with each other. But as much as I enjoy it, I am always a little nervous bringing Maggie (my little beagle) there because you never know exactly what you’re going to get.

I once had a dog, named Annie, who was the sweetest dog when she was around people, but put another dog or any animal in front of her, and she’d become like a lion. I loved Annie, but this was her one character flaw. I don’t want Maggie, or Sophie (my parents’ dog), to wind up like this, so I bring them both to the dog park as much as possible. We have never had the same experience twice.

There are German Shepherds, terrified of their own shadow, and Chihuahuas who think they can take down Dobermans. There are sweet Pit Bulls, and mean-spirited Poodles. There are dogs who only care about playing fetch with their owners, and dogs who couldn’t care less if their owner was around or not, and “ring leader” dogs who seem to excite and rile up all the other dogs. There are over-protective owners, who follow every move their dog makes, and owners who don’t pay any attention at all – even when their dog is misbehaving, or getting attacked. There are nippy dogs, and quiet dogs, and every situation is different. Even Maggie is unpredictable. She likes some dogs, and doesn’t like others. One moment she’s playful, the next she wants her space. It’s always a gamble.

Observing the behavior at the dog park is interesting because I’m always reminded how much dogs are like people. They have different personalities, quirks, and flaws. They come in all different shapes and sizes. They have moments of victory and moments of defeat. They generally take advantage of the weaker dogs, always want to be dominant, but can sense when another dog has more confidence than they do. They often act on their gut instincts and feelings. They are impulsive. They fight over what another dog has – a ball or a stick, but when the other dog no longer wants it, neither do they. They easily become anxious or afraid, but also easily become extactic and full of energy. One moment they are over the moon, the next they are cowering at your feet. Don’t people do and feel the same sorts of things?

Dogs (and their owners) are unpredictable. But the dog park is like school for dogs. They have to learn to socialize, just like people do. You may have a good experience, you may have a bad experience, but I can guarantee you, it won’t be a boring experience.

no day at the dog park would be complete without some routine butt sniffing

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